Bell AH-1J Sea Cobra by Fujimi

1/48 scale
Kit No. 45
Cost: $12.00
Decals: Two versions – U.S. Marine Corps
Comments: Engraved panel lines, raised rivet detail, raised detail on instrument panels, two 2.75 inch rocket pods, one-piece canopy


The Bell AH-1, the world’s first dedicated combat helicopter, took its maiden flight on September 7, 1965, and arrived in South Vietnam in 1967. The “HueyCobra” or simply “Cobra,” as it came to be known, came about as a result of the Army recognizing how vulnerable its troop-carrying helicopters were to ground fire in Southeast Asia, where conventional warfare had given way to an open-ended counterinsurgency campaign. In one extreme example, an enterprising Viet Cong with a bow and arrow single-handedly downed a helicopter by getting directly beneath it and shooting an arrow up through the arc of the rotor blade. The tail of the arrow had a rope tied to it — and at the other end of the rope was a rock. This stone-age weapon tangled in the rotor blades and forced the helicopter down within seconds.

The Army decided that best escort for a helicopter, was another helicopter. Most of the availalble fixed wing aircraft were jets; they were too fast and could not loiter. A notable exception was the propeller-driven Douglas A-1 Skyraider, but there were never enough of them on hand to meet the demand for ground support. The AH-1 Hueycobra shared 85 percent of its components with the UH-1 Huey from which it was largely developed. In addition to its escort duties, it was employed on search-and-destroy missions, working in tandem with OH-6 Cayuse scout helicopters, which would fly at treetop level to draw ground fire, at which point the Cobra would swoop down and blast its source. After the Vietnam War, the Cobra was modified to function as a tank buster, being equipped with guided TOW (tube-launched, optically tracked, wire -guided) anti-armor missiles.

The AH-1J Sea Cobra was ordered by the U.S. Marine Corps in May 1968. The Marines wanted a twin-engine AH-1G, based on a desire for improved safety for over-water operations. The Marines needed attack helicopters to provide frequent close-in fire support coordination in ground escort operations. Such support was never needed more than during amphibious ship-to-shore movements such as those in the Mekong Delta, and subsequent shore operations within the target area. The Sea Cobra was also used for fire suppression at landing and extraction zones, armed reconnaissance, target marking for other attack aircraft (usually jets), and armed helicopter escort.

The AH-1J featured the Pratt and Whitney Twinpac T-400 engine (two 900-hp turboshaft engines coupled together) giving an overall increase in power. The AH-1J Sea Cobra included a new chin turret gun, with the three barrel XM197 20mm cannon, as well as other improvements. While development and production of the first 49 ordered were under way, the Marines obtained 38 AH-1Gs from the Army.

After a period of training by Army helicopter pilots, AH-1G Marine Huey Cobras became operational in South Vietnam with VMO-2 in April 1969. The AH-1J entered combat with the Marines in March 1971, and saw action until the final withdrawal in the Spring of 1975.


Crew: 2
Length: 44 ft. 3 in.
Rotor diameter: 43 ft. 11 in.
Height: 13 ft. 5 in.
Weight (empty): 6, 595 lbs.
Weight (maximum takeoff): 9, 979 lbs.
Powerplant: Pratt & Whitney Canada T400-CP-400 turboshaft (PT6T-3 Twin-Pac of 1,800 shp
Maximum speed: 218 mph/190 knots
Range: 308 nautical miles/355 miles
Service ceiling: 11, 398 ft.

M197 3-barreled Gatling-gun-type 20mm cannon with 750-round capacity
LAU-69 rocket pod containing either fourteen or nineteen 2.75 rockets
Eight 5 in. Zuni rockets, in two 4-round LAU-10D/A launchers
2 AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles

The Kit

Fujimi’s AH-1J Sea Cobra is molded in dark green and consists of 88 injection molded parts. There are two figures of slightly above average quality, representing the pilot and weapons officer. There are nicely engraved panel lines throughout augmented by raised rivet detail, and in a few places around the engine, flush rivets. The cockpit is fairly well detailed with separate parts for the flight control components (control sticks, foot pedals, instrument panels, even head rests). The engine covers are well done and can easily be made to look realistic with a little weathering. The rocket pod and gun turret assemblies are basic and whatever detail to be had from them will come mostly from painting and weathering. The rotor blades offer very good detail and construction of the rotors looks like it will be trouble-free. Each step of the instructions provides a paint guide in English and Japanese.


Great kit of a “Slick” from the Vietnam era. Highly recommended.


  • Flight: The Complete History by R.G. Grant; D.K. Publishing, New York, 2002, pp. 299-301
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